Theology Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about careers in theology. Get job descriptions, salary and education requirement information. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a theology career.
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Careers in Theology

Many people enter the field of theology because they feel spiritually called to work in ministry or theology. Use the chart below to learn about the common positions in this field, including clergy member, postsecondary teacher and religious program director.

Clergy Member Postsecondary Philosophy and Religion Teacher Religious Program Director
Career Overview Clergy members provide religious instruction and spiritual guidance to congregations. Postsecondary teachers instruct students at colleges and universities. Religious program directors promote activities and religious education for schools, churches and community organizations.
Education Requirements Bachelor's degreeDoctoral degreeBachelor's Degree
Program Length Four years, full-timeTen years, including the bachelor's degreeFour years, full-time
Certification and Licensing State license or ordination may be required.N/ATeaching license may be required.
Experience Requirement N/A Some schools prefer to hire candidates with teaching or professional experience1-5 years of relevant work experience
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Fast as average growth (6%) compared to all occupations* Above-average growth (12%) compared to all occupations*Slower than average growth (4%) compared to all occupations*
Median Salary (2014) Roughly $49,911** Roughly $63,630*Roughly $38,480*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Clergy Member

Clergy members are religious leaders that interpret and teach the beliefs of their denomination. In this career, you will lead religious meetings and ceremonies, counsel congregation members and study religious texts. You may perform administrative tasks and participate in community functions. Most clergy members work long and unusual hours to attend to members and prepare for religious services. This career requires a lifestyle commitment to your faith and congregation.

Requirements

Educational requirements vary for clergy members. Some faiths and employers do not require formal education; however, many require a bachelor's degree or advanced education. You might study divinity or theology at the undergraduate level, which include coursework in religious texts and teachings. You may also need to become ordained or licensed by your state to perform religious ceremonies, including weddings.

In December 2012, some employers published the following job postings online:

  • In Virginia, a pastor was needed to preach, teach bible study and visit congregation members. Applicants needed a master's degree and at least five years of experience.
  • An Ohio hospital sought a chaplain to counsel patients with emotional and spiritual needs and assist the director of spiritual care. A bachelor's degree was required, but a master's degree was preferred.
  • A Virginia Baptist church sought a pastor with a master's degree and six years of experience to replace a retiring pastor.

Standing out

Since educational requirements for clergy members vary, you can stand out by earning an advanced degree. In fact, O*Net OnLine reveals that about one-quarter of clergy members hold master's degrees. Many master's programs are available in divinity and theology. A master's program in divinity, for example, may take three years to complete and may allow you to gear your studies toward a specialization, like Baptist studies or Christian education.

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers provide instruction in a variety of subjects at colleges and universities. As an instructor of religion, you might teach courses in theology, perform research and publish your findings in scholarly journals. You'll also evaluate students, plan lessons, stay informed about changes in your field and oversee graduate students. You may work at a community college, vocational school or university. Postsecondary teachers generally have flexible schedules; classes are usually held during the day, although you may need to be available during evenings or weekends to accommodate students.

Requirements

Requirements for postsecondary teachers vary. If you plan to teach at a university or 4-year college, you'll generally need a doctorate. A PhD generally takes six years after undergraduate school and requires a dissertation. To teach at a 2-year college or technical school, you may only need a master's degree. Your coursework and dissertation should cover the subjects you intend to teach.

Look at this sampling of December 2012 job listings to get an idea of what employers look for in religion professors:

  • At a college in Connecticut, an assistant professor was needed to teach the history of Christian thought. Applicants needed a PhD, teaching experience, the ability to teach four courses per semester and expertise in religious subject matters.
  • In Ohio, a university needed a biblical and ministry studies professor with a PhD, demonstrated research abilities, the ability to teach students in large and small groups and a commitment to the university's beliefs. Job duties included teaching undergraduate foundation courses and some upper-level classes as well as providing spiritual and educational guidance to students.
  • A university in Philadelphia sought a religious studies professor to teach three courses per semester, work with department committees, advise students and perform research.

Standing out

You might stand out as a postsecondary teacher by gaining practical experience as a graduate assistant during college. In fact, many employers seek candidates with previous teaching experience. Another way to gain an edge over the competition is to continually publish your work in scholarly journals. This can help you demonstrate expertise in your subject area and show employers your research and writing capabilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that teachers who get published often and make significant contributions to their fields are more likely to obtain tenure.

Religious Program Director

Religious program directors work in schools, churches and non-profit organizations. They organize activities, recruit volunteers and provide religious guidance to members and students. In this career, you may specialize in a certain area, such as women's or children's ministries. You will work with religious leaders and perform administrative tasks related to program planning.

Requirements

A bachelor's degree is generally the minimum requirement for becoming a religious program director. You might, for example, earn a 4-year degree in religious and theological studies. Coursework may include Christianity and Catholicism, world religions, the Hebrew bible and contemporary world issues. This profession also requires demonstrated commitment to your denomination and faith and between one and five years of experience relative to religion. This experience might be in the form of a clergy member or similar position. To work in a school or educational facility, you may need state teaching certification or license.

Here is a selection of job listings for religious program directors available in December 2012:

  • A private school in Texas sought a preschool director to communicate with staff, students and parents, oversee daily operations, market the school and uphold educational standards. Applicants needed a bachelor's degree, state license and a strong understanding of school nutritional standards.
  • In Indiana, a church sought a nursery school director to promote spiritual development in students and families, direct training and maintain budgets. Candidates needed a bachelor's degree, administrative experience and a demonstrated commitment to the church's mission.
  • A non-profit organization in San Francisco sought a director of social enterprise, employment and education to work with staff members, enhance training and further business developments. A bachelor's degree was required for the job, but a master's degree was preferred.

Standing out

While you might enter this career with a bachelor's degree, O*Net OnLine reveals that about half of all religious program directors held master's degrees in 2010. As such, you might increase your chances of employment by earning a master's degree, such as a Master of Arts in Christian Education. Coursework covers teaching techniques, biblical studies and philosophy.

Popular Schools

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    1. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Museum Studies
      • Master of Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
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    3. Saint Leo University

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    Bachelor's
      • BA: Religion
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    Associate's
      • AA: Liberal Arts
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    4. Grand Canyon University

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    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry
    Master's
      • M.A. in Urban Ministry
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      • Master in Christian Counseling
      • Master in Christian Counseling of Substance Use & Addictive Disorders
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Christian Ministry
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    Bachelor's
      • B.A. in Christian Studies - Biblical Studies
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    5. Regent University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Ministry
      • Doctor of Ministry - Clinical Pastoral Education
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      • Doctor of Ministry - Ministry Leadership Coaching
      • Doctor of Ministry - Christian Leadership & Renewal
      • Doctor of Education - Christian Education Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Practical Theology - Marketplace Ministry
      • Master of Divinity - Chaplain Ministry
      • Master of Divinity - Marketplace Ministry
      • Master of Arts in Practical Theology - Interdisciplinary Studies
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    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies - Theological and Historical Studies
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    6. Colorado Christian University

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    Master's
      • Biblical Studies, M.A.
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      • Biblical Studies, B.A.
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    7. Central Christian College of Kansas

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts
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    8. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. General Studies - Religious Studies
      • B.S. Biblical Studies
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      • A.S. General Studies - Religious Studies
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    Certificate
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Featured Schools

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Museum Studies
  • Master of Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University Global

  • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
  • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Religion
  • BA: Liberal Studies
  • AA: Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry
  • M.A. in Urban Ministry
  • B.A. in Christian Studies - Biblical Studies

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Regent University

  • Doctor of Ministry
  • Master of Arts in Practical Theology - Marketplace Ministry
  • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies

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Colorado Christian University

  • Biblical Studies, M.A.
  • Biblical Studies, B.A.
  • Biblical Studies, A.A.

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Central Christian College of Kansas

  • Associate of Arts

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • B.S. General Studies - Religious Studies
  • A.S. General Studies - Religious Studies
  • Undergraduate Certificate - Religious Studies

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